Individuality From The Power Of The Collective
Story online since: 10.03.2010 / 12:17:00
DARK AGE have delivered a deep, catchy and diverse piece of music with their latest effort "Acedia". I got in touch with keyboarder Martin to talk about the new album and the force that has led to its creation.
Your favorite football club (FC St Pauli) is on his way to first league again. You just became dad and your new album "Acedia" is awesome. With that much ecstatic awesomeness presenting itself in your life I believe we can expect a teletubby metal album next?
Yeah, indeed, the next album will be some sort of a Summer Fun Punk album... ;-) no, no. With so much bullshit going around in the world there will always be ammunition for us to carnalize such music.
After several Demos and five albums - on which you can hear a steady and somehow predictable progression of style and quality - "Acedia" is a huge surprise and an important step forward concerning technique, sound and mostly style and most definitely shows us a more modern, darker and unique face of DARK AGE. What do you think was the reason for such an extreme step, which seems even more surprising if you take the short timespan between "Minus Exitus" and "Acedia" into account?
The timespan between "Minus Exitus" and "Acedia" was longer than it seems, because we recorded ME over a long period of time. By the time ME was released some songs were nearly two years old. So a lot of progress happened during this time and we maybe thought that it was time for slight change of style. Eventhough this really happend intuitively and was not planned. But the funny thing really is that everbody in the band wrote similar songs on his own and me managed to put it together to one album which has a tune that really fits. All songs follow a certain red line musically.
You have mastered a difficult stunt with delivering an album which sounds like no DARK AGE album before, yet you can immediately hear whose brainchild "Acedia" is. How important, do you think, is it for bands to re-invent themselves after some time? And how important is it that bands stay true to their roots?
It is very important. For us it would be very boring to record the same album over and over again - because that would imply that we have to play the same songs live over and over again. Change is good and it is fun to see what comes out in the end. On the other hand we always will have some sort of a Heavy Metal factor in the music, because this is what we like to do and where we come from. If the musical face of DARK AGE would change that much that we would abandon the heavy guitars we surely would have to re-name the band. But I am sure that this will not happen. Somehow it is implied in the band's name: Dark and Heavy Music.
I don't know whether I stand alone with my perception of the music on your new album but I really feel you have washed away all constraints and genre categorizations and almost reinvented yourselves! Now I hate to ask whether that was just a natural process so what I want from you are concrete examples from the rehearsal room in which you as a band decided/noticed to go in that direction and what the landmark decisions were that made the album the way it is.
Well, I am afraid I have no examples for you...
This time we chose a different way to write the album which turned out more effective in the end.
The album was written in pieces from all different bandmembers. So everybody in the band contributed some sort of basic elements for various songs at his particular home studio. By the beginning of 2009 we met and decided which basic songs we will use. We had so many ideas that we even had to sort some stuff out which was also new for us. So at this point the basic elements of the album were already settled by all individuals in the band by coming up with different ideas. From there on the work of the band as a whole was to give the songs the final touch that every song sounds like it belongs to the album which we (in our eyes and ears) managed quite well. So what lead each bandmember to write his particular song ideas was somehow natural and the product of each individual wanting to create a song which is his idea of a DARK AGE song.
Was everyone composing free from all concepts or was it "planned" to finally break out of the melodic death corsett and compose this... I don't know, maybe you could describe the new style on Acedia for our readers?
No, it was not "planned" to make a change in songwriting. Everybody was just writing the stuff he thought would sound like DARK AGE in 2009. And somehow we were all longing for a bit of a more "modern" touch to the music.
Ah you mentioned the magic word "modern". I was afraid to use it in my review because "modern" in metal is often associated with watered down. Could you describe the mental attitude of DARK AGE towards experimentation? How does having your own producer in the band affect that?
We use the word "modern" in the sense of describing that we are breaking up with old and rusted "guidelines" of the Metal genre. We try new things out and do not care about if it is allowed by the Metal police... ;-) We do whatever we want to do.
It is very good to have the producer witin the band, because Eike has a very exact vision of how the DARK AGE sound has to be. As he does not need to explain it to another producer - he can simply transcribe his imagination of the sound into the recording.
Now unleash a little rant on what you believe those restrictions from the metal police are! Can you tell me about specific accusations you have been faced with throughout your lengthy carreer with DARK AGE?
It is mostly the stuff you read in reviews, interviews and message boards such as "they are whimping out now and try to write music as poppy as possible to get famous" or "oh, the singer cut his hair now..." What the fuck is the point of such a "statement"? Some years ago there were a lot of discussions going on as a lot of Metalheads grew older and cut their hair, because it seems to be that you HAVE TO HAVE long hair when you hear or play Metal. Who said this anyway??? In my opinion in 2009/2010 the length of your hair should not be a statement about the music you are making and listening to in any form anymore (or ever should have been).
The people in the Metal Scene claim themselves as oh so open-minded but in the end they are as narrow-minded as everybody else in the society they despise so much. A friend once said: If Heavy Metal is the law I am proud to be an anarchist. Nothing more to add.
Have you ever experienced that animosity towards your musical development as well? I mean... you have come a loooong way since The Fall!
There are always people who do not like the developement in your music which they also express in a not very polite fashion. I have no particular example for you now, but whatever. If people like to hear the same album (but with a different title) over and over again it is okay for us. Not everybody has to make the progress.
But DARK AGE has always been a band who channeled the spirit of "Metal" in it's entirety, through nearly all styles, even the obscure underground - I know that Andre and Eike did a fully corpse-painted Black-Metal interpretation with spikes and leather live some time ago (and we would like to see the video of that sometimes!). Where are your musical roots, and to what or where have your listening habits brought you today?
Haha, you are talking about HORDES OF SATAN. We do not know where they come from. The deepest woods or Hell I suppose. They take control over Andr� and Eike and channel the Spirit of 90's Black Metal through them. HORDES OF SATAN will never record an album, they just play live as special guests and completely unannounced! Everything else would not be true and a complete sell-out. Their first live video will appear on YouTube sooner or later for sure, but only if the time is right.
Of course our musical roots are hooked in the Metal scene, this is what we grew up with, whether it is Death, Doom or Black Metal or "normal" Heavy Metal, as in J�rn's case. Alex is coming from the Industrial/Rock scene which brings another interesting influence to our music. Today everybody in the band is listening to so many kinds of music, we are not limited to the label. For me a good song is a good song. No matter if it's from Metallica, Satyricon, Dark Tranquillity, The Gathering, Bring Me The Horizon, Portishead, Dr. Dre or The Prodigy.
DARK AGE have used clean vocals more and more but to my ears it appears as if you use it very consciously to diversify the dramatic suspense. Do you know what is more difficult for Eike and if at one point we will only hear him sing?
For us (or Eike) it is an approach to express his lyrics, so you are right. Clean vocals are being used whenever it matches the context.
I am not quite sure which one is more difficult. I think both are because you also have to find the right expression with the screaming voice to give it some sort of feeling. But I suggest that the clean vocals are a bit more difficult, because besides giving the lyrics the right feelings when you sing you also have to hit the right notes ;-).
Ha, ha...I do not not either, but this far growls are a part of the music of DARK AGE. Ask after the next album if the balance between growls and clean vocals has switched even more. But only then! Haha.
I am particularly amazed by the diversity of "Acedia�. By that I don't mean the songs per se, but to how many atmospheres it fits. I can listen to it while working out, when coming home on the subway at 5.30 in the morning. It's like... Perdition City mixed with lots of metal and emotion... it is uplifting, epic (Snake of June), full of destruction (Neon Gardens) and beauty (Underneath these Burdens). Is this really just 5 guys having a good time making music or is there a big scheme, something you wish to approach the listener with?
Thank you very much for appreciating the music this much and the comparison to an awesome un-Metal record such as Perdition City. No, there is no big scheme or stuff like that. We create what we feel like and write what would touch ourselves.
But in your lyrics you take very clear position towards certain topics. Your music is very honest and the topics related to the here and now of how things are. Is everyone politically or socially that thoughtful in the band?
Concerning the lyrics, of course we make up our minds. We care about the state of the world and the state is obviously not good.
So would I be correct if I said that Dark Age is not a political but a band with a strong idealistic edge?
Sort of, yes. We do not take explicit political sides in our lyrics, but we as individuals are interested in politics.
The point of your lyrics is just to point at what�s wrong without bringing forth any imputations on the listener as far as solutions are concerned?
Yes, I think so. We are no Messiahs who show the way. I think everybody has to find his or her own way to get through this world and find possibillities to make this place a better one. Eventhough it is not easy at all. If we would have the ultimate idea to heal the world we would tell.... ;-)
What about music as an answer?
Of course - music is always the answer!
On the CD itself, I see some banners and flags and I was wondering about something... Your lyrics are very critical of the social, economical, political status quo and the lonely flags seem to suggest that simultanously there is a complete absence of anyone being morally integer enough to take moral responsibility for change? How does DARK AGE envision the necessary change in this world?
I personally think that more people have to take action and have to pick themselves up. There are so many things going wrong in this world but the people are just scared of changes and rather like to live in their hole forever than stand up for his or her rights. The people "simply" have to wake up and understand that you have to speak up to get heard - that would be the first necessary step I guess.
In your previous albums you used snippets from (awesome) movies which leads me to the following questions: do you consider movies to be an influence in the compository process? If Dark Age was a movie, what would it be like? Who would direct? And would you want to star in it?
For me movies are a big inspiration, but as I just write very little of our music, there is not so much influence on this subject from my side. For the others I am not sure. We used the samples as the passages matched the particular song lyrics very well.
For me I suppose the movie would be a very dark picture but with a sarcastic touch. A Director could be David Fincher, Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino and for me the cast definately has to include Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, the younger Jack Nicholson and Benicio del Torro. Now: Choose who plays who haha.
You have drastically reduced the amount of solos on "Acedia". Them being one of my favorite element I was wondering why and if it was difficult for Joern?
The reduction of the solos happened to make room and let the the songs SOUND. We noticed that we do not necessarily need a solo in every song. Eventhough we do not have a solo in every song there are still a lot of melodies and enough work for J�rn. He is still busy during our songs haha.
Hamburg is an awesome city from what I have heard. Would you say that your origins are something that impacted Dark Age in its development?
Yes, the atmosphere and the climate here is influencing us as persons and is definitely affecting our songwriting. For me Hamburg is the most beautiful city in Germany with a very special charm.
Could you give us examples of how the city affected you, and where you believe it is most evidently reflected in your music?
The city itself has a certain charm and feeling to us. It is simply the atmosphere we have here. The feeling gets somehow transported into the music unconsciously. I can`t give you a certain song.
Everybody in the band seems to have a quite characteristic personality. Also your line up has been very stable over the years. What is your secret to so much stability?
For us it is important that we are also friends and not just bandmates. We also meet to drink beers together or have a coffee (depends on the daytime, see?) ;-). If you are on the road for several days you have to get along with the others in order not to kill each other. If we would not like each others personalities and respect each other as individuals, the band DARK AGE would not work.
Niklas Sundin from Dark Tranquillity designed ur last two artworks. Please make me and many others happy and tell me you have plans for a tour!
Well, we have - somebody just has to tell DT. ;-)
Jokes aside: You never know...
Martin, thank you very much for your time! I wish you and the band personal and artistic success and look forward to discuss the follow up to Acedia with you. Last words?
Thank you for this interesting interview and the time you spend with ACEDIA!